Why Share Reproductive Health Commodities with Youth!

With an exclamatory sign I also found it helpful to define a lot of stakeholders i.e. decision makers who might think discussion around this cause as near to impossible. Reason being, taboos surrounding reproductive health supplies, such as condoms, contraceptives, and menstrual hygiene products, have long contributed to a culture of silence and stigma, often obstructing open dialogue and hindering access to essential resources. These taboos are deeply entrenched in societal norms, cultural beliefs, and religious ideologies, creating barriers that impede individuals, particularly women and young people, from obtaining necessary reproductive health supplies.

One of the key factors perpetuating this taboo is discussions about sexual health and family planning are often met with discomfort or disapproval, leading to a lack of comprehensive education and information on the use and benefits of these supplies. Consequently, individuals, especially young people, may feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek out these resources, resulting in a reluctance to prioritize their reproductive health needs. But how long do we stick to the taboos, excusing progressive ideas and thoughts with harmful practices as customs, enclosing with culture, faith, marital status etc.? Trust me, the world of young people has gone by far with the new generation technological innovation, openness of ideologies that blurs the lines of long standing myths, taboos, and societal preconditions. Now it is high to accept the new world, that is to be led by youth of today.

The global data dashboards, and UNFPA’s most recent report says that the young people of 10-24 account for 1.8 billion as of today, making them more than at any time in the history of youth in the world. They represent a significant proportion of the global population, accounting for approximately 23% of the world’s total inhabitants. This diverse and vibrant demographic group, typically categorized as individuals between the ages of 10 and 24, contributes to the cultural, social, and economic fabric of societies worldwide. The unique perspectives, energy, and innovative potential of this large cohort play a pivotal role in shaping the future trajectory of various industries, policies, and global trends. Harnessing the collective power and potential of 1.8 billion young people requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach that prioritizes access to quality education, sustainable employment opportunities, and adequate healthcare services, and so undeniably reproductive healthcare that includes information, services, and commodities.

So why share RH commodities with youth? Sharing reproductive health supplies with youth is vital for several important reasons, as it directly contributes to the overall well-being and development of young individuals. Providing youth with reproductive health commodities, such as contraceptives and sexual health resources, ensures that they have access to accurate information and tools to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. This can help prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and promote responsible sexual behavior. With universal access to reproductive health commodities, young individuals become empowered to take control of their sexual and reproductive health, enabling them to make choices that align with their personal values and life goals.

By having the necessary resources at their disposal, youth can actively participate in their own health care and well-being. In doing so, the policy makers, program leaders as gatekeepers must understand the new normal, the dynamics of their choices, trends and values. Sticking to the old school of thoughts as abstinence, denial based on marital status, are already getting dysfunctional. Again such denial of reproductive health commodities can lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal mortality, especially in regions with limited access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, pushing them towards a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, and limiting options of family planning leading to increased economic strain and socioeconomic burden.

Reproductive health commodities access for young people is essential in mitigating the risks associated with early and unprotected sexual activity. It can contribute to reducing the incidence of teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal health complications, thereby promoting overall health and safety. It also fosters gender equality by providing young women and men with equal opportunities to manage their reproductive health and make informed choices. This contributes to breaking down gender-based barriers and promoting a more equitable and inclusive society.

Nonetheless this sharing of commodities as life planning tools, allows young individuals to focus on their education and personal development without the added burden of unintended pregnancies or reproductive health complications. It promotes a sense of responsibility, encourages healthy decision-making, and contributes to the development of a sexually healthy and informed youth population, which is essential for the overall well-being of society.

In summary, giving access to reproductive health commodities with youth is crucial for promoting their health, well-being, and autonomy. It plays a pivotal role in fostering responsible sexual behavior, preventing health risks, and supporting the holistic development of young individuals, ultimately contributing to the creation of healthier and more empowered communities. So the taboo around this is to be addressed with serious interventions, that requires a multi-faceted approach that involves education, awareness campaigns, and the promotion of open and non-judgmental dialogue. Empowering young people with accurate information, promoting comprehensive sexual education, and encouraging community engagement are essential steps toward breaking down the stigma and normalizing discussions around reproductive health. Creating supportive environments that prioritize inclusivity, respect, and access to reproductive health supplies is crucial in fostering a culture that promotes the well-being and agency of every youth.

S M Shaikat is a youth development expert, international consultant, speaker, advocate, and human rights activist. He is the Executive Director at SERAC-Bangladesh, a youth-focused organization advocating and implementing programs on access to health rights, democratic participation of youth, friendly services, and gender-based violence prevention in Bangladesh. He was elected to the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board in 2015 and has been a speaker at several events during the 69th, 70th, and 72th UN General Assemblies in 2014, 2015 and 2017, and at 62nd Commission on the Status of Women in 2018, opening plenary speaker of the 9th World Urban Forum in Malaysia. Shaikat is the founder of the Bangladesh Urban Youth Councils Network, which initiated youth councils in city corporations across Bangladesh to increase access to civic participation of young people. He was nominated by the U.S. Department of State to the International Visitors Leadership Program in 2013 and Asia Young Leader for Democracy in 2015.
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